Troops’ bor­der stay ex­tended till Jan. 31

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Tom Van­den Brook and Alan Gomez

WASH­ING­TON – De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis has ex­tended the de­ploy­ment of ac­tive duty troops on the southwest bor­der un­til Jan. 31 to deal with the ar­rival of mi­grant car­a­vans, the Pen­tagon an­nounced Tues­day.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s ini­tial re­quest was set to ex­pire on Dec. 15, but DHS Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen had been con­tem­plat­ing an ex­ten­sion as the num­ber of mi­grants mass­ing on the Mex­i­can side of the bor­der con­tin­ued in­creas­ing. Tues­day’s move by the Pen­tagon is sup­posed to help DHS hold the line against mi­grants who at­tempt to en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally.

Trump or­dered the mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment in late Oc­to­ber when he warned about a pos­si­ble “in­va­sion” by mem­bers of the mi­grant car­a­van cross­ing Mex­ico from Cen­tral Amer­ica. The 5,800 troops cur­rently de­ployed across Texas, Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia have mainly built bar­ri­ers of con­certina wire and Jer­sey walls around ports of en­try and trans­ported Cus­toms and Bor­der Pa­trol officers where needed.

Ten­sions rose on Nov. 20 when White House chief of staff John Kelly au­tho­rized the troops to use lethal force, if nec­es­sary, to de­fend them­selves or any CBP agents who came un­der at­tack by mi­grants. That or­der has been ques­tioned be­cause it fol­lowed Trump’s com­ments sug­gest­ing that troops could fire upon mi­grants if they throw rocks at the troops. “I told them to con­sider it a rifle,” Trump said Nov. 1.

On Nov. 25, about 1,000 mi­grants clashed with CBP officers at the San Ysidro Port of En­try in Cal­i­for­nia, lead­ing CBP officers to fire tear gas into a crowd of men, women and chil­dren.

Mi­grant ad­vo­cates called it a dan­ger­ous over­re­ac­tion against un­armed mi­grants who were mostly protest­ing the slow process of re­quest­ing asy­lum at the port. CBP officials said the mea­sures were nec­es­sary to stop mi­grants try­ing to il­le­gally cross the bor­der.

Ad­vo­cates for the mi­grants say the con­tin­ued mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the south­ern bor­der is noth­ing more than a po­lit­i­cal stunt that ig­nores the true in­ten­tions of the Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants: to legally present them­selves at ports of en­try.

Trump, Nielsen and Mat­tis have ac­cus­ing car­a­van mem­bers of be­ing crim­i­nals and call­ing their ar­rival at the U.S. bor­der a mat­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity.

JOEL MARTINEZ/THE MON­I­TOR VIA AP

Troops have been for­ti­fy­ing bar­ri­ers such as this one in south­ern Texas dur­ing their de­ploy­ment.

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